If you’ve ever spent some quality time reading the side of a Sprecher bottle or can, you might have noticed that many of our cherished sodas—including our award-winning Root Beer—contain Raw Honey. That sounds good (and it tastes good, too), but what does it mean for honey to be raw?
Glad you asked! I think you’ll find that the answer is pretty sweet!
What is Honey?
Honey is a unique ingredient. Although honey requires thousands of workers to produce, no human beings need to be involved. Hardworking bees make honey for themselves to survive. They collect nectar from flowers, break that nectar down into simple sugars, and store it inside the hive. The environment in the hive causes water to evaporate off those stored simple sugars, and the final product is honey.
Bees are shockingly productive—a well-tended beehive in good conditions can produce up to 55 pounds of harvestable honey in a single year. In fact, the bees produce far more than 55 pounds of the sweet stuff, but a good beekeeper makes sure to leave enough honey behind for the bees to eat. 
In short, honey is nectar that bees have processed into food for themselves, and human beekeepers skim a little off the top. But what is raw honey?
What is Raw Honey?
The honey you are probably used to finding on the shelf at the store is processed honey. Processed honey has some good qualities—it is filtered to be clear and smooth; it is pasteurized to be more shelf-stable, and it has a uniform taste to it.
Raw honey is different because it is processed as little as possible. Food writer Molly Watson puts it nicely in her article, “What is Raw Honey,” when she says that raw honey is “honey that exists as it did in the hive, without being filtered or pasteurized.” 
The basic philosophy behind raw honey is not to mess with a good thing. Honey tastes great right from the beehive, so raw honey makers don’t do very much to change it. Most raw honey makers will lightly filter the honey—maybe by passing it through a loose cloth or a mesh—to remove big pieces of honeycomb, dead bees, or other unwanted debris. Then, they pour it straight into a bottle!
Is Raw Honey Healthier than Processed Honey?
Honey is known to have a wide range of health benefits—it contains antioxidants, has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, suppresses coughing, and is better for blood sugar management than ordinary table sugar.
However, not all honey is created equal. There is some evidence that certain types of processing will reduce the natural health benefits of honey.
Health Benefits of Raw Honey
A lot of the health-boosting compounds in honey come from flower pollen that rubs off on the bees when they collect nectar for honey. One study of bee pollen showed that it contains at least 250 substances with nutritional value or health benefits. Raw honey naturally contains high levels of bee pollen, but heavily filtered, pasteurized honey contains far less of the good stuff.
Raw honey also contains enzymes that give it antimicrobial and antibacterial qualities. Enzymes are heat sensitive chemicals that can be destroyed in the pasteurization process. 
Finally, some manufacturers cheapen processed honey by diluting it with inexpensive sweeteners like corn syrup. Honey adulterated with cheap sweeteners is worse for your health than raw and pure processed honey because refined sugars contain none of the healthy compounds that honey does—they just raise your blood sugar and provide empty calories.
The Harm of Adulterated Honey
This last point may be surprising because most honey in the store is just labeled “honey.” How can it be legal to add other sweeteners to honey without saying anything? Well, it’s not. The FDA industry guidelines for honey state that if a product is labeled “honey” or “pure honey” but also contains another sweetener, it will be considered mislabeled and adulterated. 
Although it is technically illegal to sell mislabeled adulterated honey in the United States, enforcement is difficult. In a 2020 Business Insider article, writer Cody Copeland notes that “[a]ccording to the Food Fraud Database … [honey is] the third-most faked food” out there. 
Copeland points out that adulterated honey is also bad for beekeepers and the bees they care for. Making good honey is expensive, and if consumers are going out and buying adulterated honey, then honey farms that make quality honey lose out on profits. 
This is a shame because bees are extremely important for the environment. Bees pollinate plants, and this activity makes everything from farms to forests thrive. Without bees, we would lose out on vital sources of food, clean air, and much, much more.
The work of beekeepers, then, is vital for the health of the economy and the planet. In this way, raw honey is one of the best things you can buy to support your health. Without bees working diligently to keep the farms and forests alive and well, none of us will be healthy.
 National Honey Board. "How Honey is Made." National Honey Board, https://honey.com/about-honey/how-honey-is-made.
 Watson, Molly. "What is Raw Honey?: Buying, Using, and Recipes." The Spruce Eats, July 22, 2021, https://www.thespruceeats.com/about-raw-honey-2217021.
 Shoemaker, SaVanna MS, RDN, LD, "7 Unique Health Benefits of Honey." Healthline, Medically Reviewed by Ayana Habtemariam, MSW, RDN, LDN. November 19, 2021, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-honey.
 Food and Drug Administration Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, "Proper Labeling of Honey and Honey Products: Guidance for Industry." February 2018, https://www.fda.gov/files/food/published/PDF---Guidance-for-Industry--Proper-Labeling-of-Honey-and-Honey-Products.pdf.
 Copeland, Cody. "Honey is one of the most faked foods in the world, and the US government isn't doing much to fix it." Business Insider, Sep 26, 2020, 8:47 AM, https://www.insider.com/fake-honey-problems-how-it-works-2020-9.
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 "Apis mellifera carnica worker honeycomb 2," uploaded to Wikimedia Commons by Authors Richard Bartz, Makro Freak, and Hubert Seibring under the CC BY-SA 2.5 license. No changes were made to the original image.
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